6 movies that look and feel exactly like video games (but aren't actually based on games)

Why buy a license? These days you can make a video game movie without even the game

4. The Matrix trilogy

While the Wachowskis’ genre-changing Cyberpunk epic clearly lifted one hell of a lot from the aesthetic of video game combat, but in terms of its narrative, themes and general workings, The Matrix films take a hell of a lot more from the very interactive mechanics of video games. In fact they’re pretty much the internet’s “If real-life worked like games” meme stuck on a cinema screen.

Regarding those fights though. The Matrix’s slow-motion punctuations to combat have been a fighting game trope ever since Street Fighter II, making gaming’s latter day obsession with bullet-time rather a case of things coming full circle rather than strict cinematic inspiration. And the Wachowskis’ repeated use of side-on camera angles during combat can be no coincidence either.

Similarly, any and all feats of gymnastic traversal, from wall runs to impossible jump trajectory, to leaping between cars on the freeway, are pure platformer territory. Also consider the main in-Matrix adversaries. Cops, security guards and Agents. All generic but visually distinct groups comprising no individual personalities (by narrative design in the Agents’ case), identity defined only by their visual tribalism and fighting styles. In form and function they’re action game enemies, simple as that.

Then throw in the fact that Neo partakes in a bunch of literal tutorial levels in the first film by way of the various training constructs he has to complete before re-entering the Matrix proper. And consider the fact that he levels up, and gains power-ups and new abilities on the fly. And that those upgrades often come via an omnipotent ‘Operator’, who has a wide view of the whole virtual world on a computer screen, being thusly analogous to a player. And the fact that the Matrix itself is, by its very concept, the ultimate MMO. This is a set of films not so much influenced by games as shamelessly and lovingly build out of their very raw materials.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
We recommend